Sunday, May 24, 2009

Merciless God ?

It was a boring day (must have been a Monday!) . The bell ranged .Everyone sighed a relief. The teacher moved out and the class became alive again. But soon it was a disturbed by a noise. The noise grew louder every second. We looked out of the window and saw an angry mob protesting. We got to know that someone somewhere had attacked a religious monument and so these people are now protesting against that. We found this highly amusing! Someone had attacked a religious monument thousand kilometers away from this place but these people were protesting here ! We found is stupid and laughed it off. Not for a second we thought that they might come and attack us. We infact were hoping that the protest should continue so that our studies get dismissed ! We were kids. We were ‘immature’ to understand all this. We were not taught the superiority of religion , religious ‘duties’ and the importance of revenge. In our book , one big chapter was devoted to communalism . We were taught how wrong it was for the nation and most importantly for humanity. We were taught that all the religions are same . They all have some thing in common – all condemn stealing and killing. God is present everywhere – it is present even within us ! We are all God’s children. ‘God sees us’.. this was always written on the blackboard. Our school , even though it was a Christian missionary , would honor all Indian festivals.
I grew up with this knowledge. Some of my school mates would often highlight stereotypes associated with religions other than their own. I would condemn them for such low-thinking. I was unable to tolerate such a behavior.
Being a humanities student , I became interested in politics. With the base provided by my discipline , I became a news person ! I would follow al political happenings. I read agendas of political parties and would condemn those groups which had a religious affiliation(couldn’t forget that chapter on communalism!) . In history , we had a chapter on post-partition riots. I found the chapter haunting. The chapter also discussed the stereotypes that emerged , based on the experiences.
I passed out with this knowledge. It is said that school sets the base. But I realized that people forget every single thing that is ever taught there ! I began discussing politics with people . I condemned communalism. I remarked ‘its disgusting that people kill in the name of religion’. I expected praise from people but they instead recited innumerable instances where the other community people had targeted their community. They asked me to see the ‘other’ side of the coin. They would teach me how great their religion is! I realized the difference between school and ‘real’ world.
I do not want to see a side of a coin , I want to see the coin. I had considered religion a way of life and not life. I do not want to identify people by their religion. Religion is a personal choice. In Sanskrit m I had read dharma is …what we believe in. Revenge is a venom .An eye for an eye will make everyone blind. People keep attacking each other to take age-old revenge. When will this revenge end ? Both sides have suffered tremendously. But If revenge is inevitable , punish the real accused. Do not kill the innocent. Ten people target a religious monument but the whole community is supposed to be wiped off. What was the innocents’ crime ? It’s the males who ignite the fire. But in riots , everyone is targeted. Women are raped. Whats the link? People often remark ‘ we did it coz they did it ‘ . This reminds me of a famous liner ‘If he falls in a well , would you follow him?’ .
We are humans before being classified under other heads. Religion never justifies killing. Those who kill in the name of religion are those who do not even know what religion is. Religion tries to differentiate between the good and the bad. It guides us how to live a virtuous life. Revenge is evil . God sees us all.
God creates life so its destruction should also be left in its hands. Love is the soul of the world.
Someone had said to me ‘You wont understand all this . You are still young.’. Well if growing up means forgetting this simple philosophy then its better to be a kid !

In this article , I have not used labels. I have not taken any side. But if someone still feels I m ‘pseudo-secular’ ..well then I am not bothered. I care a damn what the other community has done. I care only about the innocent , I am not interested in knowing how great you religion is if it allows revenge ..if its merciless! Have mercy on humanity !

Friday, May 15, 2009

Is this Development ?

This picture was taken in Ghaziabad , an NCR region . The picture exhibits two different economies separated by just a wall. The construction in the picture sheds light to urbanisation . The side with small semi-permanent houses exhibit a rural way of life. Cow dung cakes were strewn all over. There were cows , buffalos and Cowpens. There was a hand pump. The people did not look impoverished . This rural look did not make them look appear the urban poor , This was not the jhuggi-jhopri living . People from this settlement do not seem to provide labour to the construction happening besides them . But the use of brick in this settlement suggests some interaction. This is just a speculation. But the real fact is that these people will be displaced very soon as the area is ‘developing’ rapidly. The use of the word ‘displacement’ is ideal here because the concept of rehabilitation often remains unknown and misunderstood. Rehabilitation should consists of proper housing , providing basic amenities(water and electricity supply) and employment opportunities. The Jhuggi-jhopdi settlements are always seen as polluting an area. The settlement is extremely dirty. Everytime one passes through this area , one is bound to curse the local Government(MCD) . But do we care about the underprivileged who inhabit this place ? No , we only care about the look of our area. We all wish to live in posh areas. We demand development in our area and the demolition of JJ settlements is a part of this. Recently , I got the news that the JJ settlement in my area has got demolished . Its all ‘clean’ now. On inquiring about the inhabitants , I got to know that they have actually been shifted to some other area. But the people from the new area keep coming back to our area for employment. It is a common fact that When the Government allots them houses to live in, they sell it or out in on rent. But why does this happen ? This is because they though they are being provided a good shelter , they are not given the means to sustain this new way of living. It is not the underprivileged’s fault . It is the Government’s incomplete work that is responsible. The underprivileged do not have means to a fresh and adequate supply of water. Whenever the MCD water tank reach their area , there is always a jostle. Everyone is in a mad rush to get access to this ‘limited’ resource. For the poor , every drop is precious. The Government encourages education for all . But often the Underprivileged are not able to avail this because the children are needed to supplement daily income . It is annoying to see beggars. They are all well-trained so we can refuse them without feeling any guilt. Giving alms to beggars is punishable , states the Government. But this has not helped because the beggars are increasing day by day. In the present economic scenario , the rich are getting richer and the poor poorer. So are we really developing ?

In recent decades , dams have started facing a lot of opposition. Jawaharlal Nehru called Dams ‘the temples of development’ but the reality has been different. In Many cases , the dams have proved to be ecological disasters. The social aspect of dams is also important. Dams displace millions of people and the concept of proper rehabilitation is unknown in this country. The Narmada Bachao Aandolan is the most popular dam-opposition movement. The complete opposition to the Narmada Valley Project , particularly the Saradar Sarovar Dam grew when it was realised that there was no land for rehabilitation . The initial demand of this movement was proper rehabilitation.

The Nandigram and Singur Case also echoes a similar problem . The Government promises rehabilitation and employment opportunities but this never happens. In Nandigram and Singur , the Government forcefully acquired lands. There was widespread violence. But the most interesting part was that the Government in power was a leftist party. Left parties are socialist parties which believe in development for all. So what they did in Nandigram and Singur came as a shock. At Singur , the Government allotted a settlement for the displaced. The Settlement shared the wall with the TATA industrial plant . The wall had large holes which was a way to let excessive water move out. This water would then flood the settlement.

India is proud that it has been regarded as one of the fastest growing economies. But is it really growing ? We are adopting a capitalist mode of production . This is dangerous for our agrarian economy. India is home to millions of villages . Villages are seen as under-developed because we associate Development with huge buildings. Villages provide an economic base to our prosperity as Food production happens there. But our economy is opening at a dangerous speed. The Government is losing control. It is the duty of the Government to distribute wealth evenly. But if liberalisation and Government’s neglect continues at this speed , we will soon be importing food grains. Development does not mean transformation of rural areas into urban areas . It means developing the rural areas. Technology should reach Rural India to increase self-sufficiency. Medical and Educational facilities should be provided. Basic amenities should be provided . Creation of facilities so that Villagers feel no need to migrate to urban areas. The agrarian element has to be retained. There is definitely no problem with urbanisation. Urbanisation is pleasure. But there is a need to redefine development. The Underprivileged should not suffer. They should not become martyrs for development of some. Development should be for all – people and regions.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Fair = Lovely ?

The Fair and Lovely ads speaks of fairness as a qualification. Fairness can change a girl’s life. In 14 days , she can turn into the most successful woman. There is this particular ad where a girl is a theatre artist but her talent is not recognised . Then she uses this cream and her complexion lightens . The next thing we know , she becomes a top actress ! This ad is named ‘Power of Beauty’. Fairness is seen as a confidence booster. But most importantly, as the ad suggests, it is associated with beauty. The Matrimonial ads refer to fairness and beauty as synonyms . Fairness is a virtue.

Indians are obsessed with fairness. It is , however , very curious as the Indian climate does not support fairness. Indians complexion ranges from ‘wheatish to dark colour’. A Fair skin is rare and so it is considered a gem. This obsession may have a historical background to it. The Rig Veda frequently refers to the word varna , literally meaning colour . The arya with a fair skin and perfect facial features were constantly in conflict with the indigenous tribes who were described as dark and ‘without a perfect nose’ . The word varna in later periods is used to denote caste of a person. This example points out that some form of consciousness about one’s complexion may have been prevalent. Some of the stereotypes connected with the dark complexion may have started emerging.

The rule of the Whites( the European colonizers ) consolidated the process of racism . A very famous concept produced by the colonizers was the concept of white man’s burden. They made statements like ‘the foundation of all great civilizations was set by Whites’. Fairness got associated with power.

The colonization came to an end in the twentieth century but racism has managed to survive. People often act crazy when there is a white foreigner around them. The dark ones are all categorized as the Negros. There is a desire in every Indian heart to look , behave and live like a foreigner. Fairness/Whiteness is attractive but Racism makes it beautiful. Fairness is the demand of the society. Fairness is one of the most attractive word in Indian Matrimonial ads. In the latest Fair and Lovely ad , the girl is rejected by many seekers because she doesn’t have the ‘glow’. Fairness creams are the most popular creams in India. Every household carries one. A Pregnant woman is often advised to drink milk so that the baby gets a milky complexion. The most typical question asked about a baby is whether he/she has a fair skin or not . The word ‘fair’ also denotes something which is right. Fairness for men is a new concept in India . Its generally the women who are more conscious about the way they look . The first time i saw the Nivea Whitening Cream , i could not help myself laughing . The ads for men also proved the same point. Fairness is the ladder to success.

Now the question comes fair is it to be fair ? The Supreme Creator designed us all differently for a reason . It(the creator/force) prefers diversity. It wanted us all to be unique. But Human beings do not think on the same lines . They prefer homogeneity. To dislike the way you look means to insult the creativity of the Supreme Creator. A more scientific reason is the climatic factor. Its the climate which determines one’s complexion. Fairness is also associated with a lot of skin diseases. The White people are more prone to skin cancer as compared to the wheatish and the darker shaded people. The Fair skin is often a bed of blemishes , pimples and rashes . The constant use of fairness cream is also harmful. Fiddling with the melanin of the skin is not a joke. The ads will never give the real picture. Its Skin quality which makes the skin look beautiful . The colour has no role to play in that. Africa is not full of ugly ducklings. Infact , no one really is ugly. Its actually one’s own perception that makes one ugly or beautiful. To be fair may be a good thing , but to be dark is definitely not a bad thing!

Sunday, May 3, 2009

The Second Sex : Breaking the Glass

For women, the earth is flat. If they venture out, they’ll fall off the edge. These chains however are not bounded by anatomy but by men.

Women have been given the gift of creating life. Her anatomy helps her to create and sustain life. Men, on the other hand, have been made to defend this life. There is only a biological difference between men and women. The ideological difference has been created by humans themselves. Nature blessed women with creation of life.Nurture of this life is however , the responsibility of both men and women. Nature has not endowed women with the management of children and household.

History provides us with evidences of women involved in production activities. Women hunter-gatherers are depicted in Prehistoric art. Simple societies like tribes are matriarchal. They revolve around cults of Mother Goddesses. The transition to complex societies and the subjugation of women went hand in hand. Warfare created superiority in men. They could enslave the weak. The first slaves were women. Women could be exploited easily. Religion consolidated this process of subjugation. The Shatapatta Brahmana of Rig Veda remarks that women neither posses themselves nor property. Manusmriti coins the famous line ‘Women in their lives are dependent on their father, husband and son’. There are restrictions imposed on a menstruating woman. Buddha stated ‘women are deceitful, greedy and lustful’. A Buddhist nun can attain nibbana (salvation) only if she turns into a man. In Islam, all MEN are equal. Women have to stand behind men during prayer. Women are clad in burqa and hijab so that they are unable to attract men. Even God is referred to as he.

Along with these ‘divine’ facts, a plethora of stereotypes were generated. Aristotle stated that a woman’s brain is half a man’s brain. Women are symbols of love and beauty. Women think with their heart. Gossiping is the territory of women. A woman with both beauty and brain is rare. Pink became a feminine colour. If a woman does not follow any of these ‘facts’, she is considered different. She is considered a tomboy, a macho woman! Women are seen as a category, not as individuals.

Women have been seen as furniture of the house. Children and Household are considered a Woman’s domain. Are women born to serve? Are they born-sweepers and cooks? One of the most typical questions for a girl is whether she knows cooking or not. A corporate woman, as capable as her male counterpart, is expected to do household work when she returns home. A Woman who leaves her children and husband to work in another city is looked down upon. She is considered irresponsible. Should a Woman’s dream be of a kind that does not meddle with her household ‘duties’? Even if a woman steps out of her domestic world, the concept of maryada trails along. A Woman is supposed to be in her ‘limits’. No such limits are ever associated with men. Even in a rape, it is the victim who is blamed. Her ‘revealing’ clothes had invited the trouble. The Rapist could not help it.
Are Men unable to control their sexuality? The answer is No. It is the society which does not let them to! Men have the liberty to go to sex workers. They are not blamed. It is the Sex worker who is considered the ‘venom’ of the society. Men do not have to wear any mark of marital status. It is the woman who is to be always identified as the wife. Women have been seen only as mothers, daughters and wives.

The struggle of being a woman is a struggle untold. History is also his-story. Women have tried to break free. But their voice has been suppressed by the society. Men are taught to apologize for their weaknesses, women for their strengths.
The Feminist waves of 1950s-60s were an attempt to win human rights for women. With their slogan ‘Personal is Political’, they attempted to bring women out of the domestic world. Feminism is the radical notion that women are human beings. It demands equality not superiority. It demands freedom. A Woman should be seen as an individual, not just as a woman.
Feminism has been seen as a threat, as a challenge to the ‘order of the world’. But it is the emerging trend . It is a liberation movement for the ‘second’ sex. It is an attempt to break free because Anatomy is no longer their destiny!